Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja has placed a no debit order on the bank accounts of convicted former managing director of the defunct Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, in 24 Nigerian banks.
Justice Okunnu ordered that the accounts, which have N19.178 billion be frozen after hearing an application filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Charge No. ID/1549/2011, the federal government against Atuche and Ugo Anyanwu, a former chief financial officer of the defunct bank.
The two former bank chiefs were convicted and jailed by the judge for stealing N25.7 billion theft belonging to the bank.
While Atuche was jailed on 21 of the 27-count amended charges of conspiracy to commit a felony and stealing for six years, Anyanwu was imprisoned for four years for the same offence.
Justice Okunnu, while sentencing the duo on June 16 this year, had ordered that the convicts should make restitution of the N25.7billion to the federal government to replace the funds stolen from the public to bail out the bank.
The EFCC in obedience to the order filed the application seeking to seize the funds found in the bank accounts of the convict.
In her ruling, Justice Okunnu granted the anti-graft agency’s 12 prayers under sections 6(d), 20, 24, 26(1), 30 and 34(1) of the EFCC Act and sections 290, 294 and 297 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2015, filed by prosecution counsel led by Kemi Pinheiro (SAN).
Justice Okunnu ruled, “An order is made restraining the 1st defendant (Atuche) whether by himself or acting through the persons or entities listed or such other persons including but not limited to his family members or agents, from removing, alienating, disposing off, dealing with or diminishing the value of assets, proceeds of economic and financial crimes or otherwise in the name of the 1st defendant.”
The judge also held that the assets or funds included those held indirectly by or for Atuche’s benefit, whether solely or jointly held, that are located in Nigeria or worldwide.
She further froze any bank account being run and operated by Atuche, “personally or jointly, whether in his name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number: 22295357230 in any of the respondent banks to the tune of N19,178,253,050 only, under the restitution order made by the court on the 16th, June 2021.
She further restricted Atuche and his privies, including his lawyers, from presenting to the respondent banks any mandate or instruction for the withdrawal of any money and/or funds standing to the credit of any of their accounts to the tune of N19, 178, 253. 050.
In another order, she restrained the banks from honouring any such instruction from Atuche and his privies.
The judge stated, “A mandatory order of injunction is made directing the named respondent banks to file within 48 hours of service of this order of this honourable court on their returns of the statements of account of the 1st defendant (personally or jointly) whether in his name or otherwise or with the Bank Verification Number: 22295357230 and the accounts of persons and entities listed in the aforementioned Schedules A and B maintained with them…
“A further order is made directing service of the order made herein on persons affected thereby including in particular, the persons and entities listed in Schedules A and B by way of advertisement in either The Punch or Thisday or The Guardian newspaper,” she ruled.
The EFCC had told the court that 15 persons were used as fronts by Atuche to launder the funds.
It identified them as Anthony Atuche, Emeka Patrick Atuche, Paul Okobi, Felix Oyiana, Moruf Kazeem Adisa, Olatunji Abiodun, Daniel Enebeli, Aina Olugbenga, Augustine Nwabueze, Omonua Benedict, Oliver King Nduaaron, Dr Chris Ike Ogbechie, Mr Murat Bektaslar, Attah Omataikpo Olukemi and Thomas Etch.